Artist Interview

“A colored pencil drawing doesn’t look like much in the beginning. 

In fact, sometimes I feel like throwing it into the bin, 

but I know that if I keep going, it’ll develop, layer by layer

until I’m happy with the result.”  ~ Tannis Trydal, AFCA

Q. Can you tell us about yourself?

I was born in Regina, Saskatchewan but our family lived in many places throughout my childhood; Calgary, Cranbrook, Vancouver and even Bathurst, NB! I moved to Grande Prairie in 1986 along with my 3 sons, it was the best decision! Grande Prairie has been very good to me. It is here that I set down roots, met my husband, raised my boys. I enjoyed a long career in advertising sales with the Daily Herald Tribune, and retired in 2010. My husband and I have 2 main passions, our grandchildren and traveling.  We’ve travelled to many places; Norway, Amsterdam, Cuba, the Caribbean, Canada – Coast to Coast, the USA extensively, and have hiked Peru’s Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.  We usually spend the winter months in the southern USA and I look forward to many more adventures in the future! Adventure fuels my artistic inspiration!

Q. Have you always wanted to be an artist?  Is there a particular event or person that encouraged you? 

I think I’ve always had an interest in art. In an early grade, my school had an art contest and my drawing of a tiger was chosen to compete in a city wide contest. I won a silver dollar! 

It really wasn’t until 2009 that I decided to learn to draw in earnest. My husband, David encouraged me to pursue my goals so I found an online art course that I could study at home, in my own time. The course was a 1 year commitment and upon completion, I had a good grasp of the basics and started to create my own compositions and to enter juried art shows. 

I am eternally grateful to Cindy Wider, the founder of for teaching me to draw. She is my mentor, and a great friend whose encouragement is never ending. She taught me to believe in myself and to open the door when opportunity knocks.  I don’t think I would have ever found the courage to exhibit my work without her encouragement and support.  

Q. Why do you create art? Is there a particular motivation?

I must create art, it has become part of who I am even though I came to it later in life. I am always looking for inspiration but am mostly drawn to nature. I strive to create simple depictions of natural forms that capture the beauty of nature in all its awesome wonder.  I look for the extraordinary, in the ordinary by closely observing nature. I also love portraiture and have created portraits of all our grandchildren. 

My motivation for creating art doesn’t revolve around the monetary aspects of my art career however I am humbled when one of my artworks speaks to someone enough that they want to have it in their home. That is the highest compliment, however I’m also motivated by any sort of appreciation shown. I think back on my very first foray into exhibiting my art; I loved being a little mouse during the opening reception and overhearing positive remarks. Many artists suffer from self critical thoughts that can be quite debilitating and so remembering these overheard positive remarks helped to dispel negative thoughts over the years.

Q. Do you have a favorite medium?

I create artworks that generally involve drawing; graphite, pastels, charcoal but my all time favorite medium is colored pencil. When colors are layered, the colors beneath shine through because the pigment is semi-transparent, I love that!  Drawings in colored pencil are luminescent, rich in color and are so smooth and saturated that they can actually resemble paintings. Check out my drawing  shown below, of my grand-daughter titled ’Kara’s Butterfly’. The gentle layering of colors make her skin seem to glow. 

Q. Can you tell us a bit about some of your artworks? 

Blossoms – Graphite and Kara’s Butterfly – Colored Pencil

The artwork titled ’Blossoms’ was the start of it all! I aimed to capture the peaceful, beauty of a woman, blossoming with child, a new life growing within and the miraculous- ness of it all. I entered this graphite drawing in my very first juried art show, held at BAC in Beaverlodge in 2010. To my surprise, it won first prize and that was a huge confidence booster. 

‘Kara’s Butterfly’ is a colored pencil drawing. I love this drawing because it captures Kara’s excitement of seeing something so beautiful!  Kara is one of my eight grandchildren. 

‘Struggle to Survive, There’s Hope!’ by Tannis Trydal

‘Struggle to Survive, There’s Hope!’ is a colored pencil artwork that won an honorable mention in the FCA’s 2020 Crisis juried exhibition held last fall at the Federation Gallery in Vancouver, BC. My artist statement read’ Climate change limits the availability and quality of water for drinking and agriculture. Crops that have thrived for centuries are struggling to survive, making food security more precarious. However, we can be the change, there’s hope!’

‘Having Peace like a River’ by Tannis Trydal

Lately, I’ve been working on a series of my collected rocks and river rocks. This piece titled ‘Having Peace Like a River’ is a nod to life in the Peace Country and a play on words. According to the dictionary, peace is defined as: freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.  Peace does not mean everything in life is going to be still, it means that despite the ebb and flow of circumstances, peace washes over you, like a river. Peace reassures you that you are safe in the middle of everything. Very apt for our current times as we navigate this pandemic. 

Q. Can you tell us about the range of emotions, if any, that you experience while drawing! Do you listen to music?

I like to listen to music while I work, but it is really just background noise… it perhaps sets a mood, depending on what I’m working on. I generally work on one piece at a time as each piece takes up my whole focus, so much so that the house could fall down around me and I wouldn’t notice it! 

When I am in the zone, I ask myself questions as I go to help me to see what is there. I might say to myself, what direction does this curve go, or where is the shadow edge positioned? What is the shape of this shadow? These questions come naturally to me as I go. Doing this also helps to keep negative voices at bay:)  A colored pencil drawing doesn’t look like much in the beginning. In fact, sometimes I feel like throwing it into the bin, but I know that if I keep going, it’ll develop, layer by layer until I’m happy with the result.

Q. Is finding time to create art a challenge for you?

Now that I’m retired, I have time. However, finding time is still hard, if that makes sense? People often say they don’t know what they’ll do when they retire but when they retire they didn’t know how they had time to work! There are always other things that need doing, and because I become so focused while drawing, I have to plan so that all of those ‘other things’ can wait until I’ve completed the artwork.

On average, a drawing takes me 40 hours to complete. In the planning stage, it might look like I’m busy daydreaming but important work is happening as I percolate ideas! Quite often inspiration comes to me as I look at my treasure chest of photos taken over the years. Once, I’ve got my idea, then I begin to experiment with little thumbnail sketches using a variety of composition structures. I’ll also begin to think about colors and how I’m going to lead the viewer’s eye around the composition. I might do 10 or more thumbnail sketches until I find the best one. From there, I’ll gather my reference images, sometimes there are more than 1. Sometimes, I need to go out and take the photos that I need, sometimes I have what I need in my treasure trove. Then I create the outline drawing, transfer it to quality paper and begin choosing colors. The work of creating is all-consuming, and while I am creating, that’s all I have time for, everything else falls to the wayside.

 Q. Do you have another career besides creating art? 

I am retired so now creating art is my main career however after I retired from my ‘advertising career’ and had graduated from the online drawing course, I became a certified online art instructor for Cindy Wider’s Complete Drawing Course. I taught this online course for aprox. ten years to hundreds of students throughout the world,  offering one on one coaching.  It was a labour of love and so rewarding to witness a student’s excitement  of realizing their dream of learning to draw when they thought they never would. Over the years, I have developed color pencil tutorials which are available on

Q. Can you tell us about any awards or exhibitions that you are especially proud of? 

I have been fortunate to win a few awards over the years but I think that the one that means the most is winning first place in my first juried art show. It was such a confidence builder. When I began my journey to learn to draw, I didn’t set out to be a ‘real’ artist who shows and sells their work. I thought I’d just learn this cool skill and never envisioned sharing my artworks with anyone other than my family.

 Q. What does your art journey look like in 5 years from now?

In 5 years I’ll be 70 years old! Scary to think about that! I don’t have any specific goals other than to keep healthy and to continue having adventures so that I can create art far into my old age! 

 Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share about your art journey or perhaps some words of wisdom for others? 

When I was teaching students to draw, I realized ‘fear of failure’ was the main thing holding people back from realizing their dreams. I think that at times in my life, this may have held me back, as well. I’ve come to believe that we need to give ourselves permission to make mistakes because mistakes enable more opportunity for learning. There is no such thing as failure unless you give up. Never give up! 

Thanks so much Tannis for sharing your art journey with us!